Transportation department, patrol remind drivers to move over for workers
Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper Adam Wood was clearing a trash bag from the road last month when he saw a driver headed right for his patrol vehicle.
A few seconds were all that stood between serious injury or death when an inattentive driver crashed into the back of his unit.
"I went up and parked behind the road debris with my arrow stick on. Even had my right arrow stick on, telling everyone to move over to the right," Wood said.
"It was crystal clear what needed to happen, but the lady that struck my unit was sleepy and I guess all the lights in the world wouldn't matter if there's an area of inattention."
"Inattention to driving is what gets a lot of us hurt out here, unfortunately," Wood said.
Wood put into place his "exit strategy," which unfortunately opened him up to another hazard on the Muskogee Turnpike in Wagoner County.
"We don't have to think. We just have to react," Wood said. "I jumped over the wall and it wasn't a second or two later, the impact occurred."
But that put him too close for comfort to drivers whizzing by in the opposite lanes of the turnpike.
Wood escaped the Sept. 13 crash unscathed, but the incident is a reminder that drivers should obey the state law, passed last year, which states drivers should move over and slow down for emergency workers, first responders and construction workers.
Oklahoma Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael C. Thompson said during a news conference that 35 troopers have been killed in the line of duty since the patrol's inception, and roughly 44 percent involved vehicle collisions.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation Director J. Michael Patterson said about 60 of their employees have lost their lives due to roadside accidents on the job.
"It was just about a year ago that the new 'move over' law was enacted and became law Nov. 1," Patterson said. "It's not only the highway workers that we concern ourselves with. It's also the drivers."
"In 2015, there were over 1,130 accidents in work zones alone. Of those 1,130 accidents, there were 521 injuries and 13 fatalities," he said.
"These vehicles can be replaced, but the humans cannot," Patterson said.